Friday, March 23, 2018

I Peter 3:8-12, conclusion

Today we will look at how the good life results from healthy relationships -- and they result from doing good in our talk!

Wait a minute....we've already covered our walk. Isn't our talk just the confession to others that we have a Savior and Friend that they need to know?

Hang in with me!
Let's look at verse 10 of our passage, in fact, let's zero in on the latter half of the verse!
 For,“Whoever would love life    and see good daysmust keep their tongue from evil    and their lips from deceitful speech. (I Peter 3:10)
Well, whatdya know? Peter is talking about how we "do good" in our talk!
We usually think of our walk backing up our talk.....Peter is reversing it here. Our lips must back up the good deeds in our lives if we want to enjoy the good life.

How do we do that?

Well, first off, we are not going to retaliate when we are verbally abused.  Verse ten supports what Peter told us in verse nine....not to retaliate when we are insulted, but rather to give a blessing instead. To speak well to the other person, or to bring good to them.
Whoaaaaa! Does that run in the opposite direction of what the world says? I think so! The world tells us, "If someone abuses you verbally, you should stand up for yourself! Assert yourself! Let them know that you have more self-respect than that! In fact, if you can think of something worse to say about them, go for it!!"
But God tells us, "If someone insults you, bless them. Say something kind to them in return." Jesus said, "Bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you." (Luke 6:28) And I can tell you from experience, it AIN'T EASY!!! But it IS what God commands us to say.
Now, please, hang in there with me; Peter is not talking here about clarifying misunderstandings through reasoned conversation. There are needful times for us to state our points of view and speak the truth in a calm way.
We're talking about the kind of situation when a person is being purposefully mean and abusive. He or she is trying their best to pick a fight. Or to bait us into losing our cool. Peter says:
1. Don't respond to abuse with more abuse.
2.To try to "top" the put-down or the insulting words.
3. Don't call them names because they called you names.
4. Don't be even more sarcastic than they.
Instead......respond with kind words.
Kind words heal and help;    cutting words wound and maim. (Proverbs 15:4, The Message)
The next thing Peter tells us to to stop our lips from speaking deceitfully. The word translated there means to "bait or snare." It refers to when we say something that is calculated to deceive, mislead, or to distort the facts. Deception is a barrier to healthy relationships, because it destroys trust. It may be a deliberate attempt to "bend" the facts to suit our side of the story. Or perhaps we leave out certain facts so the person gets a slightly skewed view of what happened. (We don't need to pat ourselves on the back and say, well we didn't lie. It's still deceitful!)
There are always going to be situations where it is TRULY HARD to be honest. Do we tell a dying relative about their condition? That's pretty serious, and will require prayer. Do we tell our friend about their new dress that doesn't really flatter them? That's not as serious, and may just require some tact and some diplomacy.  We need to pray for wisdom and pray for the Spirit to lead us!

So, we know now that we should NOT retaliate against people picking fights, and we should NOT be deceitful. Two negatives......
Here is the positive: doing good in our talk means blessing others with words that build them up. We should speak well of others and to others -- giving a blessing. Look at these verses:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (Romans 14:19)
Wow! If we would apply this in our homes, and in our churches.....not trading insults, not deceiving, but speaking words that build up the other person.....well, there wouldn't be much need for marriage and family counselors, would there!!
Seriously, let's think about our speech in our families this past week -- how much of what came from our lips was critical or angry, or even sarcastic? How much was aimed at blessing and building up the family members?
I know that in some families it's considered OK to kid around, to use humorous jokes and digs, to banter back and forth. But I think, even in jest, trading put-downs is not building up the other person. (Just sayin'....)
Are you thinking....."wait a minute! You've been telling me to deny myself, not retaliate, bless those who insult me, and then on top of all those, you want me to be harmonious, sympathetic, kindhearted, and humble! Who's going to look out for me? It's a jungle out there! Who is going to protect me if I act that way?"
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous    and his ears are attentive to their prayer,but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (I Peter 3:12)
He will.....the Lord and Creator will. His eyes are on the righteous, and His ears don't just hear, it says they are attentive to our prayers. Some synonyms for attentive are "watchful," "vigilant,".... and if we look at "vigilant," it means "on guard." Our responsibility is to please the Lord by doing good in our walk and in our talk. It is He Who is responsible for guarding us, for protecting us and for answering our prayers.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.     He makes me lie down in green pastures,he leads me beside quiet waters,     he refreshes my soul.He guides me along the right paths    for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk    through the darkest valley I will fear no evil,    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,    they comfort me. (Psalm 23:1-4)
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.  (II Thessalonians 3:3)
The good life?
That comes from having healthy relationships.... first, a relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ. Then, having good relationships with the family and friends that God has blessed us with, here on earth. Thirdly, having good relationships with acquaintances and unbelievers, and having the opportunity to witness to them.
Keeping those relationships healthy and balanced, and in His will -- all of that is at the center of the "good life." It's essential if we desire to glorify God, and to enjoy His blessings.
Perhaps this passage (I Peter 3:8-12) is a good one for us to memorize. Then we will remember it all our days, and we'll find ways to apply it to our relationships.....
......and that's how to live the good life!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

I Peter 3:8-12 Good days, good life

We are studying a "gem" of a passage this week, aren't we? Here it is again:
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For,“Whoever would love life    and see good daysmust keep their tongue from evil    and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good;    they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous    and his ears are attentive to their prayer,but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Don't ya love it when we can get truly practical instructions from the Word? Peter says that there are five character qualities that go along with our "doing good" in our walk..... and he packs them all into verse eight!

First, "like-minded." I can think of some synonyms: harmonious, unselfish, considerate. A harmonious person seeks to get along with others; we won't be self-willed and we won't demand our own way. And we also won't judge others who don't go along with us! We are to be team players -- to consider the other person's perspective and give others room to be different. If we are harmonious, we will accept people as Christ accepts them. We'll pay attention to biblical absolutes, which cannot be compromised, and we will realize that there are areas where there's latitude for difference. We'll give people time to grow in Christ, and not look down on immaturity. When believers are seeking to conform their lives to the Word, we will have the same outlook and interests, and we will have harmony.

Second, "sympathetic."  What a great example our Savior gives us:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
Our Savior sympathizes with our weaknesses, so we, too, should enter into what others are feeling. Paul told us to rejoice and to weep alongside other believers:
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. (Romans 12:15-16)
We should be sensitive to how we would feel, if we were in the other person's place. We need to do all that we can to make him or her feel accepted and loved.

Third, "love one another." The word Peter uses is "philadelphoi" in the Greek, and means brotherly love. It is reminding his hearers that as believers we are members of the same family. But we must also show love to those outside the family of God, and seek to bring them into fellowship, for we are all members of the human family.
From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ (Acts 17:26-28)
Often an opportunity to be brotherly toward another person opens the door for witness about our Lord Jesus.

Next, Peter mentions "kind-hearted." Some synonyms could be: tender-hearted, compassionate. The idea is to have genuine concern for another person. I guess it's not much different from "sympathetic," but both concepts reveal an emotional element needed in our Christian behavior: we need to truly be caring, and going beyond what we may think our "duty" is toward another person. They should be able to sense that we genuinely care for them from our hearts....

Lastly, "humble" in spirit.  This quality was not seen as a virtue in Bible times, and it certainly isn't seen as a positive by many people today! It was the early Christians who followed Christ and who elevated it as a virtue.
In our day, even Christian writers and counselors seem to have reverted to the old ways, since almost every book dealing with relationships says that we must learn to love ourselves and boost our self-esteem before we can love others. But the Bible says something quite different. Don't take my word for it, though:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
Hmmmmm. Did ya know that there is not one verse in the whole Bible that commands us to love ourselves? There are several verses that affirm that we do love ourselves and that command us to love others as much as we do love ourselves! (Obviously, I'm not addressing the situation of some folks who have difficulty accepting and loving themselves, and need the love of God and believers to assist them in seeing themselves in a positive light. They need to be loved and told that they are indeed special, children of our Father God, and that they have talents that only they can contribute to our world.)
What I AM saying is that many times pride and self are sources of conflicts, and that we should be considerate and loving, as Paul urges the Philippians to be. The Bible tells us that harmony can come when we work on our humility, not on pumping up our own self-esteem!

These five qualities can help us to develop healthy relationships with believers and unbelievers alike. Doing good in our walk can bring us an awesome result: the good life!
Tomorrow we'll look at "doing good" in our talk......

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

I Peter 3:8-12 Good days, good life

Oh boy! We're really getting into the Word today! I suppose the saying about "walk the walk and don't just talk the talk" is sort of cliche, isn't it?  Have we heard it too much? Do we (figuratively) yawn when we hear it again?
It's hard to find another concise way to say it! There's a lot of truth in those phrases....we said yesterday that the good life, if we want to call it that (and Peter did!) results from good relationships -- good relationship with God, and also good relationship with other humans here on earth. Christian or non-believer, it doesn't matter. For us to have healthy relationships and be at peace with others, we need to "do good" in our walk.

I guess many times that people use that walk and talk analogy, they are implying that all of us need some accountability. It's often very beneficial (and very eye-opening) to have a small group of believers that are accountability partners, and help each other as they strive to "live godly in Christ Jesus."
Refresh your memory of our verses (I Peter 3:8-12) and then we'll start for today.....

We can notice that Peter quotes from Psalm 34 right in the middle of his own letter. Let's look at part of his quote:
They must turn from evil and do good;    they must seek peace and pursue it. (Psalm 34:14)
Notice that there is something we must turn away from (doing evil) and there are some things that we must actively pursue (doing good and seeking peace). So, let's coin a new phrase...... doing good in our walk means turning from evil and pursuing peace.

Underlying verse eleven of our focus passage is the simple truth that we all have a natural bent toward evil. The word itself is used five times in this paragraph! It refers to our living for ourselves; we naturally want to live in disregard of God and of others, too. Unless, of course, they can serve us in some way.
I'm sure that like me, you have known people that seemed to constantly be thinking of how different individuals could be coaxed, persuaded, or manipulated into doing things -- solely because of the benefit to the manipulator. Whether short term or long term, these scheming peeps seem to always be looking for "an angle."
It's just a natural human tendency to want to live for ourselves and get our own way. Paul calls it the "old nature." Adam and Eve's sin plunged the entire human race into a sinful path -- theirs was an act of self-will, of self-indulgence. They were seeking fulfillment in direct disobedience to the command of God. And ......  NEWS FLASH!! The new birth does not eradicate that bent toward selfishness, as any honest believer will admit!

Let's be honest here.....if we are driving along and we're listening to the local Christian radio station, and perhaps singing along, praising Him -- and some wise guy cuts in front of us so that we have to hit our brakes, swerve, or do some fancy driving to avoid him, how do we react?  Do we instinctively bless God for Him, and tell God we know that guy is loved by Him, and start to pray for him to be saved?
Hmmm. In a word, no.
At least, I'm being honest. Are you, too?
Why not?
The answer for me (and maybe for you) is that same answer as for the three year old in the super market who wanted candy at the check out, and throws a tantrum when she hears the word "no." I didn't get my way....and I want to get my way! In fact, if I think back on the times when I have been angry, most of those times originate from the same issue: I wanted my way and I didn't get it.

Oy vey. (Pardon my Yiddish.) The thing that hinders healthy relationships that can bring glory to God, and make us participants in "the good life," is this: self. The root of most of our interpersonal problems is our selfishness. Our wanting our own way. many of us are reading this and still thinking, "Oh yes, if my mate (or friend, or whoever) wasn't so selfish...." It is us who must turn from selfishness. That evil, that self that takes no prisoners, is what marks us as fallen sinners. So we must make a conscious choice to deny self on a daily basis.

It's not enough, though, just to deny self. Or turn from evil. The Psalmist and Peter are telling us that we must actively do good and pursue peace with others. Remember that phrase that Paul used? "If possible, so far as it depends upon you, be at peace with all men...." (Romans 12:18)
And look at this one, too:
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (Romans 14:19)
Try once in a while? Nope.
Give it a shot when we feel like it? Uh, no.... he says "make every effort."
In other words, focus on it. Don't be indifferent. Don't be passive. Really try!
In fact, Jesus talked about this:
 Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)
We are to take the initiative. As important as worship is, Jesus said to stop in our tracks like a deer in headlights, then go and make things right! We're to do all we can to restore strained relationships.

Ohhhhh mannnnnn. It's time consuming. It's a hassle. Can't we just let it slide? I mean, it takes a lot of emotional energy, choosing the right words, and lots of my precious time....Won't time heal it? Besides, it is embarrassing, too.
Well, yes, it truly is humbling to have to admit to someone that we wronged them. So many times, we won't actively pursue peace.
But we should.
Now, on the other hand, we aren't supposed to confront a person everytime he or she offends us. We should absorb some of it if we can. But if I am the one who has offended, it is up to me to set aside the time, and invest the emotional energy, to seek peace.

Have Peter's words nudged our memories? Are we thinking of someone that we need to restore a relationship with?  We will feel much better if we say to the one we've wronged, "God has shown me how wrong I was to [name the act or the words said]. I want to live in a way that pleases Him, and I want to ask you to forgive me. Will you?
And if someone has wronged us, we need to be careful not to accuse them. Attacking them will only foster conflict. But if we seek to restore them in a spirit of gentleness, we may be able to restore the relationship and regain peace. After all, we are sinners, too!
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)
So...... to do good in our walk, we must turn from evil such as selfishness, and actively pursue peace.

More from Peter's instructions tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Verses that inspire

Are we keeping up with our studies of His Word still? Are we just as determined as we were in January? (Grin)

There are several verses that talk about the Word of God being vitally important in our food that we need to survive. But not just food -- really tasty food. Most of us have a sweet tooth, no?

The Psalmist spoke of God's Word as honey:
How sweet are your words to my taste,    sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:103)
Gracious words are a honeycomb,    sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (Proverbs 16:24)

And the second verse talks of our own words.... I truly believe that if we spend time in His Word, our words will be gracious to others. They will be sweet and bring healing.

Can't do it on our own, y'all. Nope.
Let's get into the Word and then see if our words improve; our relationships will be sweeter; our witness will be better!

If a verse or a passage has inspired you recently, leave a comment to tell all of us about it!

Monday, March 19, 2018

I Peter 3:8-12 Good days, good life

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For,“Whoever would love life   and see good days must keep their tongue from evil   and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good;   they must seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous   and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (I Peter 3:8-12)
Ahhhhhh, good days.....
What makes a good day for you?
Sunshine? Warm weather?
Or at the opposite end of the spectrum, jingle bells and snowflakes to catch on your tongue?
Or do we long for the "good life"?
What do we think of when we think of a good life.....someplace where rich and famous people are lounging around a pool or cruising by in their incredibly expensive cars?
Those people aren't any happier than average people are. In fact, some of them are WAY more miserable than most!
(Personally, I think the good life is being down on the floor playing with grandkids. But that's just me.)

Peter is talking about the good life here in our verses. He's quoting from the Psalms, too, to back up what he says.
Let's dive in!
What is the good life and how do we live it? The truly good life comes from having God's blessing upon us. And whether we realize it or not, all of the groundwork that Peter has laid so far in his letter, is vitally important for receiving those blessings.....because God's blessing is pretty much inseparable from having good and honest relationships with others.

Yup. Seriously. That's why Peter has gone to great length in his letter so far. He's told us repeatedly how to interact with others. There are some other verses that shed light on this, too:
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. (I John 4:20)
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-39)
Being rightly related to God and to others sums up the message of the Bible. So the good life is twisted together with good relationships, just like the strands of a rope. You can't have the one without the other.
Seriously. Think about it. If, so far as you are concerned, you are at peace with others:
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)
....then life is sweet, even if we don't have a garage full of expensive cars, jewelry that rivals the showcase at Tiffany's, or the biggest stock portfolio ever.  Even if we don't have an abundance of things, life is sweet.
But if we are constantly at odds with others, then we can have all the stuff in the world, and life just isn't so good.

The passage that Peter quotes is from Psalm 34. It says that if we want to love life (really live it to the fullest, and be contented) and see good days (true happiness and the blessing of God) then we must do some things with our lips and with our lives.
Uh oh.
Sounds to me like Peter is zeroing in on "walk the walk, don't just talk the talk."
Does it sound that way to you, too?
Peter is summing up the section of the letter where he tells us how to live as aliens or pilgrims in this wicked world. It's a theme that will keep going into chapter four, to tell you the truth! We Christians are to be distinct in our behavior, noted for obedience to God and for submission to proper authority.... whether government, employer, or in the home. The commands that he has given us are radically different from the world and its ways -- and they are even opposed to our own natural inclinations. But if we live like Peter tells us, we will have a powerful witness for God.

This week we are going to look at how we should live, to experience the "good life." Now, before we get started, we do need to remember that our motive for living this way should be to please God and to glorify Him. The enjoyment we find in life is a result of our seeking to please God. I guess we can think of glorifying God in the way the world says, "make someone look good." When we seek to glorify Him and obey His commands, we inherit a blessing:
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (verse 9)
On the other hand, when our motive is selfish, like using God as a Great Benefactor in the Sky, we come up unfulfilled. We shouldn't selfishly try to use God to make ourselves happy. If we do that, we will be as empty as the gas tank we forgot to fill before we started out on a trip....

Yup. Peter is going to tell us that there are two areas where we must seek to please God -- there's our walk (behavior and attitude) and our talk.

I have a feeling we may need some bandaids for our toes this week.....

Thursday, March 15, 2018

I Peter 3:7, conclusion

Here's our focus verse, one more time:
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (I Peter 3:7)
For the past couple of studies, we have focused on the "respect" portion of this I'd like to zero in on that last phrase:
 so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (I Peter 3:7b)
I had always looked at the end of the verse and thought it was just a general the prayers of a husband and a wife are hindered if they don't mutually submit, and respect each other. But as I have studied this week, I'm convinced that Peter has a particular type of prayer in his mind as he writes these instructions.

Remember that as we have studied, we have seen a recurring theme.... a thread that has run through each chapter. Peter has been telling us again and again how we should live -- in order to be examples to others. He has told us that in this "pagan" world, we need to shine so that God will receive glory, and unbelievers will be drawn to Him.
Because of that, I believe that the prayers Peter is referring to here are the prayers that a believer is praying, for his or her unbelieving spouse to come to a saving faith in Jesus.

Many times in our prayer request posts, and in private correspondence, too, I've heard about the people that some of us are praying for. People who are family or friends, or folks who we know because of business relationships..... many of us have people on our hearts, and we pray for them to be saved from their sin and start a new life in Christ.
Because of our concern for others, we have a natural, human tendency to take things into our own hands. We may have the best of intentions, but Peter points out that this kind of behavior may be counter-productive! Sometimes what we have to do is just back off, treat the other person with consideration, and not try to badger them into the kingdom of God. Sometimes we just need to trust God for the results and be a little more mellow -- but continue to pray for that person, and to model godly behavior!
I'm not saying a total "hands off" attitude. Nope. But there are times when if someone is resistant to God's Word, consideration is better than constant conversation. (Grin)
And another thing....Peter isn't making a guarantee here, that our unbelieving family member or friend will promptly respond to the Word. We need the leadership of the Holy Spirit to move forward, to know when talking is good, and when it becomes badgering. When we are dealing with someone who has been resistant to the Word, and pushed aside the gospel, the most effective things that we can do are to love them, to treat them with respect, and to pray for them.....and trust our Father God to change their hearts.

I'm going to suggest that we write down the name of an unbelieving person we are praying for. Maybe more than one. Let's pray that God will draw that person to Himself. And let's also pray that God will reveal to us some steps that we can take to develop our inner beauty. Let's ask His help in treating that person with respect and honor. If we have been guilty of badgering that person, confess that to God, and ask for forgiveness. Then let's trust God for the results.

See? I told you this was not just for husbands!! (Grin)
See ya next time!